Security vendor Websense was a fairly late newcomer to the channel. But in the second half of the last decade it aggressively expanded its channel presence and programs. Now the company is transitioning its channel model to better fit the requirements of its TRITON unified security architecture, that is at the core of its strategy moving forward.
To lead this transition, last month Websense announced the appointment of Shawn Pearson as Vice President of Worldwide Channel Sales. Pearson comes to Websense from RSA, EMC’s security division, where he had been senior director of Americas inside sales and channels at RSA, and where he implemented procedures that successfully transitioned RSA’s channel from transaction-centric to more of a value-add operation.
But Pearson’s experience in seeing channel transitions is really broader than that because he’s really an EMC guy – spending 14 years at the main company before moving to RSA for the last three.
“EMC was very direct when I started there, and it transitioned into a model in which a channel was added and then increasingly empowered,” Pearson said. “At RSA, the challenge there was taking a channel that was structured around selling authentication, and building more of a value-added component. The challenge at Websense is similar to RSA. Websense is trying to go from the traditional community of partners selling security and build more value-add, as we move more and more into TRITON, where we need more pre-sales and post-sales work. And to do that, we need to transition our channel.”
Part of the transition involved assessing and shrinking the channel.
“Over the past 12 months, we’ve really consolidated our partners, pruning those who were inactive or not effective,” Pearson said. “We have about 4500 partners globally, but in the U.S,, there are probably 75-80 tops who make the biggest impact and are making a major investment in us. We are putting a bigger investment in partners who invest with us. But at the same time, we don’t want to ignore or alienate partners who do a transactional business, and who have been loyal.”
Pearson said he is continuing this process of assessing the channel, but that the focus is really on working with the partners more effectively to make them more productive.
“We have a lot of good partners in place, and we want to help them understand the portfolio better, by doing things like tweaking the business planning we do with them so it’s not a case of nothing going on between the six months between plans. We are also tweaking the profitability levels in the program. It’s definitely a case of evolution rather than revolution.”
Pearson said some of the tweaks are based on recommendations from the recent partner council.
“A lot of the feedback there was how we can make the processes easier and make them more profitable,” he said. “So we took the deal registration program and made it easier to register opportunities and to make more money when they register deals.”
Changes in training to better enable partners going forward was a key priority.
“As the portfolio got broader, we faced a challenge because training wasn’t role-based centric. And partners asked us to make training more pointed for the role being trained to,” Pearson said. “So we recently moved our training organization to align with channel community, to align partner training so that it better fits partner needs. It’s the same training, but packaged in a way that’s easier to consume, and which fits needs like better presales training.”
Another major emphasis now is training Websense’s field engagement teams to better engage partners.
“We are now providing guidance and training for our field organization beyond setting expectations for the partners,” Pearson said. “There’s a bit of a cultural shift involved. For example, when doing forecast reviews, it’s not just about forecasting the opportunity but also how they have been teaching the partner to get the technical win. We are also focusing on when the right time to engage is, so it’s not too early or too late.”
Pearson said they are also doing an overall review of the program.
“We are looking at different ways to incent programs, but it’s not something I’m able to speak to at this point,” he said. “We are reviewing things like co-op, MDF and rebates to see how we can make it more beneficial.
Pearson said that while many partners need to adapt and deepen skills to sell TRITON, that trend is common to the security industry and general, and Websense partners have an easier task than most.
“TRITON and its solution set do fall into that high-complexity bucket, but all solutions in that space are high complexity today, and I think we are on the lower side of that,” he said. “We don’t have multiple acquisitions that were never fully brought together from an engineering perspective.”